Star Nicholas II

“The star died; despite everything I did, everything I tried to do…” “That’s how the story is going to end, unless you listen to me this time” were the irritable words that hissed from Culper’s cracked and bleeding lips as her veiny hand shot up to blast a bubbling blue portal into the frosted brick wall. The cluster of soldiers in cobbled-together reds had barely turned the corner as Culper swung her companion through the rift, with only the slowly dissipating plume of her icy white rebuke left behind as the blue circle closed.

***

Poe’s body slammed, almost perfectly horizontally, onto the middle of the table of a regency dinner much to the horror of the party guests. He groaned into the venison as wobbly-haired ponces shrieked accusations of witchery, whilst one solitary and particularly dense guest applauded the host’s ingenious surprise entertainment. Two heavy, mismatched boots landed either side of Poe’s neck and he knew best to keep his head meat-facing for the time being. He felt the accusatory gaze shift from him to the wispy haired, electric eyed woman with both feet planted firmly in ridiculous platefuls of now crushed meals. Silence hit the room as hard as Poe had entered it, until a giggle emerged from aforementioned moron squeezed into her pastel pink corset. Culper sufficiently shot her in the face which, it is safe to assume, was a fairly simple indication for a mass Georgian exodus of the dining hall. Culper gently writhed her fingers into her palm, extinguishing the sapphire glow that crackled in the centre. She hopped off the table, wiping her boots on the chair cushions on her way down, and strode towards the gigantic doors. Poe listened as Culper rammed her hip into the lock, somehow bolting it, and as the somewhat cakey clipping of her feet on the marble casually made their way to close the rest of the doors. “What did we learn?”

Poe sighed heavily, inhaling an upsetting meaty warmth. “What did we learn, Poe?” Culper pressed again in a patronisingly melodic tone reserved solely for lecturing. “Don’t befriend the target” Poe muffled meatily. “And?” she probed. “Make sure you know the difference between the attackers and the defence”. “Becaaause?” “Because…” Poe resigned, “you may mistakenly let a friendly looking Bolshevik into the plan to save the star, forcing them to kill him and his family quicker whilst risking personal safety.” Culper’s hand, still warm from transit, patted Poe’s head. “There we go”, she exhaled, wandering off to scavenge for alcohols still intact on the table, “And by Kuiper’s belt, for the last time it’s TSAR, Poe.” The student lifted himself off the feat, picking out flakes of various hams and potato fragments that were now embedded in his eyelashes, and plonked himself on the edge of the table. “Okay, sorry, TSAR then”, he sulked, “but I’m sure he wasn’t so bad, I mean the Russian’s started making pilgrimages to Ekaterinburg in the Twentieth Ten’s and-“ An empty bottle flew in his direction, with Poe barely moving out the way of its projectile. “Stop with the fluffy-headed, andy pandy nonsense” belched his partner. There were a lot of things Culper would say that Poe did not quite understand, many of which were obscure references she had worked hard to pick up and throw out at will. Poe assumed that “andy pandy” was one of those, but regardless he understood that her threat was still very much looming. It was best to keep moving whilst various cutlery and dinner wares flew at great speed in his direction. “We are not contracted to buddy up with the targets. We get in at the fixed point in time, we get them out before they get their brains blown out and we take them to the Museum for processing by the Curator. This is not, and will not, be another Hitler incident!” Another plate crashed into the wall. Hitler-gate was legendary in the ranks as the greatest cock-up in the HPI (Historical Persons of Interest). Supposedly another of Culper’s squirts struck up some sort of vegetarian friendship with the dictator and, in some untraceable and likely indescribable occurrence led to Hitler, alongside his neue salad munching freund, was nowhere to be seen in any of the alternate realities. Some of the older recruits used to suggest that Culper was actually privy to what happened down in the bunker, but the resounding factor that remained was that the Curator was displeased.

 A small white napkin stained with various wine splatters waved furiously from under the table. “It won’t happen again, I promise!”, begged Poe as slowly rose with the cloth, “Can we try again? I won’t cock it up again I swear. By the book.”

***

The angry Russian man with disconcerting facial hair slugged Culper one square on her battered jaw, and she slumped forward on the chair to which she was bound. Red spittle and a bit of tooth fell from her gaping mouth and bounced off the cold, dirty floor of the very same improvised-prison they had just escaped. The idiot boy cocked up again. Contrary to opinion, there were a limited number of realities that could be accessed by the travellers, and Poe had knocked off one of the few remaining avenues. Another punch suckered into her cheek bone, and something cracked out of place. “I ask you again. Where is your co-conspirator?” growled the Russian to Culper as three of his red comrads glared at her like the homemade album cover of a moody teenage rap crew. Culper raised her head to shoot back a harsh stare, but hesistated a moment. Through the wintery locks that fell over her face, she could just see The Tsar and his family tip toeing up the cellar stairs behind the backs of the guards with Poe swiftly following, giving a fairly inappropriate thumbs up as he went up and out the back door. Culper snorted with a wry smile. “Well, what do you have to say?” probed the Russian. Culper grinned. Memories of Hitlergate had been punched forward into her head. Waiting until her cohort and the cargo were out of sight, she leaned forward coyly and whispered to the Russian: “Now I know what you’re thinking, performing a vasectomy on a Badger using your wife’s shoes with a gun to your head sounds like a serious situation…”

 

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